Two to challenge Island lawmakers

Both 41st District State representatives, Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn, who are Islanders and Democrats, are facing opponents in the November General election.

According to King County Elections, Clibborn, who has served in the Legislature since 2003, faces Alex O'Neil, who lists no party affiliation.

Senn who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Marcie Maxwell who left to work for the Governor last year, has served one term. Her opponent, Bill Stinson, 20, is a University of Washington college student who has been active in the King County Republican party since high school.

Senn was on her way to a seminar on early learning in Denver when she sat down with the Reporter to talk about her first term as a state Legislator and the campaign ahead.

Senn was selected as one of 20 legislators across the country to take part in the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Early Learning Fellows Program. Her appointment to the program follows on her success in passing her first piece of legislation signed into law. ESHB 2519 helps kids in the child welfare system access quality early learning programs. Senn has also been appointed to the Washington State Building Code Council.

The Reporter asked Rep. Senn what surprised her during her first term in Olympia.

How a bill actually gets processed was a revelation, she said, ticking off the number of levels of review that a bill must go through to become a law.

While most might find the process discouraging, it was reassuring, she said.

“All of the levels of review make sure the bill is thoroughly vetted,” she explained. “And the fact that a bill can be changed literally up until the last minute made it a bit less stressful.”

“I believe it is a good process,” she said.

She was also primed to see more people coming to Olympia to rally for human services and on issues that would bring out the religious community. There were not many. She said she understands that people are working and cannot make the trip. But, topics on human services are on the top of my mind, she said.

She was pleased to find that her fellow legislators were welcoming and helpful. Along with the committees she served on during the session, early learning, the environment and the budget, there are work groups that met often.

"Thirty of the Legislators last year were freshman," she said. The group met regularly as did both Democrats and Republicans, to talk over the issues. But a great advantage she points out was that she had Clibborn and others, such as Ross Hunter, to check in with and learn the ropes.

There has been a lot to learn and take in, she said.

“I have learned that you do not have to be an expert on a topic to add value,” she said. “And I learned you have to trust as well.”

Since the session ended, she has been out doorbelling as much as she can. She sometimes takes her son Ben, 11, with her. She finds that talking with constituents grounds her. The conversations serve as a gut check, she said.

Senn has found the multiple issues and the intensity of the job, invigorating but she worries that some issues are still left out.

At 43, Senn is the third-youngest woman in the legislature. As she has said before, she believes that there are not enough lawmakers with young families in the statehouse.

In addition to her son, Senn and her husband have a daughter, 8.

Senn is proud of her first bill, on early learning. "It was a real policy bill that we generated," she said. Her focus will continue to be on education, transportation, the economy and the environment.


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